A wildly popular seaside getaway for travellers from all around the world, Goa is as well-known for its golden sand beaches as it’s for its delicious cuisine. From rustic seaside shacks to extraordinary fine-dine options, you’re spoilt for gastronomic adventures. If you’re wondering what to eat in Goa, we’ve got you covered.
Goa’s food culture draws heavily from five centuries of Portuguese colonisation blended with local Indian flavours. Seafood is a staple, making use of an assortment of ingredients like cashew, coconut, jaggery and the kokum fruit. Chef Avinash Martins (owner of Cavatina, Goa) shares, “Our local dishes represent different communities of Goa — the Indo-Portuguese, the Hindu Saraswati and the aboriginal or tribal communities of the area.” This makes the food multi-faceted and a delicious confluence of flavours.
Being hugely popular with international tourists, cooks here are very adaptable to different tastes and spice tolerance. When you stay in one of our beautiful Goa villas, your in-villa chefs will be delighted to whip up treats that suit your palate. There’s no need to choose what to eat in Goa. Try all of the following dishes when you visit Goa next:
Nothing harks back to Goa’s Portuguese roots more than the sumptuous pork vindaloo (also comes in chicken). Deriving its name from the Portuguese word vin which stands for wine and ahlo (garlic), this fiery red curry originated from a Portuguese sailor’s stew made of pork, garlic and wine.
Over the years, Goan cooks have added their own spin to the recipe by replacing wine with palm vinegar and adding local spices like cumin and chilli peppers. According to Althea Viegas, a lifelong resident of Goa, “Some of the best restaurants where you can find this are Kokni Kanteen, Copperleaf and Anand Ashram.”
2. Crab Xec Xec
If you love crustaceans, you’re in for a treat! In this traditional Goan recipe, fresh crab is flavoured with aromatic spices like cloves and tamarind and cooked gently in rich coconut gravy. The curry is a little spicy but does not distract from the juicy flavours of the crab meat. Pair it with steaming basmati rice or local bread (poi) for a mouth-watering main course.
Althea names “Ritz Classic, Viva Panjim, Bombil and Martin’s Corner” as some of her favourite places for Xec Xec. Meanwhile, Chef Avinash suggests, “try smaller restaurants that specialise in authentic Goa food.” Or you could simply ask your chef to cook it up for you.
Any list talking about what to eat in Goa is incomplete without this famous Goan dessert. You will find that few things can compete with bebinca when it comes to being synonymous with Goa. A layered cake made of coconut, bebinca does not require too many ingredients but is notoriously time-consuming to make. A typical bebinca usually comprises seven to 16 layers and is made of coconut milk, jaggery, eggs and butter.
Legend suggests that it was first created by a nun named Bibiona in Old Goa’s Convent of Santa Monica. The seven layers of this dessert were said to represent the seven hills of Lisbon.
Head to Mr. Baker 1922, Viva Panjim, Souza Lobo or Toro Toro for your very own slice of this layered indulgence.
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4. Poee (Poi) Bread with Chorizo
If you’re in the mood for a hearty breakfast or evening snack, treat yourself to freshly baked poi with juicy chorizo sausages. The earliest Goan poi bread used local toddy as a source of yeast for fermentation. However, bakers have over time shifted to commercial yeast to make the bread softer.
The history of poi is interesting. Goa’s hot and humid client made it difficult for European settlers to store their sausages for a long time. So, they started pickling the meat with vinegar, alcohol and chillies, which now gives it its distinctively tangy flavour.
Speaking of the traditional Goan sausage, Althea explains, “It has a lot of cultural significance. Besides our beautiful Portuguese architecture, we’ve also adopted a lot of our Portuguese forefathers’ palates and cuisines.”
5. Prawn Balchão
Experience an explosion of flavours when you try this sweet and spicy prawn pickle made of succulent tomatoes, chilli sauce, sauteed onions and vinegar. It is best coupled with rice or eaten as a spread on toast. Locals especially relish it during monsoon season when fresh fish is unavailable.
Each community in Goa has its own spin on a balchão. While Goan Catholics use coconut vinegar to bring out the pickle’s acidic-tart flavour, Hindu households usually opt for milder cane vinegar. Calling it one of her favourites, Althea likes to pair her balchão with a steaming plate of prawn biryani.
6. Goan Fish Curry
Humble in ingredients and preparation time, traditional Goan fish curry is rich in flavour and aroma. You must try this fresh fish tenderised with a lemon marinade and cooked in a fragrant tomato and coconut-infused sauce. Althea recommends indulging in a Goan fish thali (a large plate). It’s a platter where you can sample a variety of curries for a reasonable price.
If you prefer non-gravy-based seafood, Chef Avinash says, “Hay smoked mackerel is such a beautiful recipe which incorporates earthy and smoky flavours and uses basic smoking techniques. It also holds a cultural significance as it’s a part of the fishing community of Goa. Sadly, it has not been given its due respect.”
Though Goan food is most famous for its meats and seafood, its vegetarian fare is equally diverse. Take for example, Khatkhate, a yummy vegetarian stew. It is made using as many as twenty vegetables such as gourds, yam, pumpkin, drumsticks, radishes and sweet potatoes. Khatkhate originates from Goa’s Hindu population and is specially made during festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi. You must try it when you visit the sunshine state.
Interestingly, ‘teppal‘ is the star ingredient which gives the dish its unique flavour. Teppal is a local Indian spice closely resembling Sichuan pepper. If you visit Goa during the summers, don’t miss out on this delicious curry which includes a special ingredient, jackfruit — only during these months.
Ok, not strictly from the ‘what to eat in Goa’ list but Feni and Goa go back a long way. Toast your visit to Goa with a sip of feni, a local alcohol made from cashews or coconut. While you may take some time getting used to its aroma and bold taste, it is the ideal choice to complement Goa’s piping-hot fish and meat curries.
Talk to a few locals and you will find that Goans have been drinking feni for more than 400 years. The name feni is derived from the Sanskrit word phena (froth) and refers to the bubbles that form when you shake the drink.
Head to the Cazulo Feni Distillery for an unforgettable feni-tasting experience, as a saxophonist plays beautiful tunes in the background. Be aware, however, that feni is very intoxicating. So, you’re advised to drink responsibly.
You’re in for a treat when you start deciding what all you want to eat in Goa. Book an elite haven and get a taste of Goa at one of our magical private villas. Experience the best of Goa.
Header image credit: Shores Threesixtyfive